Ntaganda, Katanga, Lubanga, Ngudjolo…: From Battlefield to ICC

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has convicted Germain Katanga on 23/05/2014 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Though the court allows an appeal for this judgment, he got sentenced for 12 years (including those spent in jail in Hague) for crimes committed in Ituri region around 2003. The ICC detains few Congolese warlords who are being tried for different counts related to sexual violence and sexual slavery, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Despite Katanga, the court has already convicted and sentenced Thomas Lubanga and still has to work on Bosco Ntaganda’s case, Mathieu Ngudjolo (he has been acquitted even though the prosecution has appealed) and Jean Pierre Bemba. The latter’s case is related to crimes committed in Central African Republic (CAR) when Bemba was the leader of Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC) rebellion. The common characteristics of these warlords is that they have served as vanguards safeguarding their bosses, executing blindly commands from different capitals in the great lakes region.

Justice can simply alleviate what went destroyed but it will never entirely rehabilitate losses incurred. Imagine someone, whose hands were amputated by atrocities committed by these warlords, hearing that they are being tried in Hague (Netherlands), thousands miles away from his home. For that victim, the trial raises two distinctive puzzling questions. On one hand, s/he would prefer to personally witness it in her/his front. Unfortunately on the other hand, though conviction has taken place, s/he will never have her/his hands recovered for the remaining of the life. Wherever s/he sees the disability, it always recalls these atrocities beyond imagination. That is, there wouldn’t be an entire rehabilitation for what were devastated by the war.

Consequently, it may largely be agreed that these trials would significantly impact if carried out in DRC, if possible nearby the victims. Secondly, justice processes would have to include at least some mechanisms of rehabilitating victims who became disabled persons due to these atrocities. However, as these warlords would unlikely get tried in DRC, victims prefer the second option of watching or hearing trials being held anywhere. It is logic to guess that these trials may even remain unnoticed for those victims living in remote areas of Congo due to lack of basic facilities. Though not fulfilling the two important conditions from my viewpoint (entire rehabilitation and the trial proximity), the trials mitigate to some extent pains of victims and bring lessons for the future. The key questions remaining are why wouldn’t they be tried in DRC and when would other criminal suspects in DRC be convicted?

Before responding to these complementary questions, the article recapitulates briefly ICC convicted Congolese warlords’ background.

1. Martin Ngudjolo Chui


He was born on 8 October 1970 in Bunia, Ituri District (DRC). He is congolese national from Lendu ethnic community.

Before 1996 he has a corporal rank within the FAZ (Forces Armées Zairoises) of former president Mobutu. Since 1996 till 2002, after a short training, he worked a nurse within the Red Cross. He revived military career when Ituri started burning due inter-community conflicts manipulated by invisibles hands. Until he got arrested and transferred to ICC on 7 February 2008, he held different top positions within rebel groups in Ituri including the National Integrationist Front (FNI), the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri (FRPI) and theCongolese Revolutionary Movement (MRC). He was and is yet accused of having carried out an indiscriminate attack on 24 Feb 2004 in Bugoro village that took over 200 civilians deaths. he is married with two children.

Details on his ICC case (see ICC website)

2. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo


He was born on 29 December 1960 in Jiba, Utcha Sector, Djugu Territory, Ituri district (DRC). He is congolese national  from Hema ethnic community. The founding leader of Union of Congolese patriots (UPC) that went involved in Ituri crises since 1999-2007. In September 2002, he became President of the UPC and founded its military wing, the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of the Congo (FPLC). Under Lubanga’s leadership, UPC is accused of having carried out killings of 800 civilians on the ethnic basis in the gold mining region of Mongbwalu as well as 350 civilians in different villages. He has been found guilt of ethnic massacres, murder, torture, rape and mutilation, as well as the recruitment of child soldiers. He is now serving a sentence of 14 years in a jail. He is married with seven children

Details on his ICC case (see ICC website)

3. Germain Katanga


 He was born on 28 April 1978 in Mambassa, Ituri District (DRC). He is a Congolese national from Ngiti ethnic community. He is among top leaders of the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri (FRPI). in 2004, as a result of peace deal, he was appointed to the rank of general along with others 6 militia leaders. He is accused of having carried out an indiscriminate attack on 24 Feb 2004 in Bugoro village that took over 200 civilians deaths as well as that the attack on Nyankunde hospital that culminated to the killing of roughly 1200 civilians. he is married with two children. 

Details on his ICC case (see ICC website)

4. Bosco Ntaganda, Terminator


He was born on 5 November 1972 in Kinigi, former Ruhengeri Prefecture (Rwanda). He is rwandese or congolese national (to be determined, though most of witnesses and I believe he is rwandese), member of Tutsi ethnic community.

He moved to masisi joining some of his relatives family membersin his ealier age where he is supposed to allegedly have acquired the congolese nationality. In 1990 he joined the Rwandese Patriotic Front till 1996 when he might have been part of Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo/Zaire (AFDL). Former Deputy Chief of the Staff and commander of operations of the Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC). In 2006, he served as Deputy Military Chief of Staff of CNDP (Congrès National pour la Defense du Peuple) until he deposed general Laurent Nkunda from his function of the president of CNDP. In 2008 he is appointed as General of FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo). Founding member of M23 rebellion along with Sultani Makenga whom they fought in between for unrevealed reasons. On 18 March 2013, he voluntarily reported to U.S. Embassy in Rwanda requesting to be transferred to the ICC and this happened on 22 March 2013.  he is individually responsible for war crimes committed by the FPLC between July 2002 and December 2003.

Details on his ICC case (see ICC website)

Back to above questions regarding indifference of DRC’s authorities in front of crimes, their attempt responses can be found into Katanga’s recent declaration as well as that of his lawyer Hooper after his conviction. They both have stated that « Il y avait d’autres cibles, de plus gros poissons. Du fait des enquêtes bâclées, ils ne sont pas venus ici, devant cette Cour »; and his lawyer Hooper adding « Si la majorité des juges m’a reconnu coupable de complicité, qu’attend le procureur pour traduire en justice l’auteur principal ? » (See RFI for details). In a nutshell, Katanga and his lawyer feel troubled of bearing a burden of atrocities while main responsible are yet free. They are openly pointing a finger on those who orchestrated, behind the scenes, these killings and crimes. Put it simply that they consider ICC played a double standard justice missing the targets. Their concerns and objections are quite supported by different independent witnesses, researches and reports.

Facts seem to have shown that these militias have worked as proxy forces on a behalf of their manipulators. These proxies are countless and goes beyond those convicted as many still live in different places under covered protection. Nevertheless, being manipulated doesn’t prove someone’s innocence; it rather reminds that real criminals exist and have to be prosecuted too. Consequently, from my opinion; these responsible seem to unwillingly facilitate justice establishment. These responsible are even suspected of obstructing actions undertaken towards justice goals. It remains hard to distinguish states power and influences from criminal suspects within the political and military arena in the region. It may even be stated that, despite leverage from international community, the trials would have slight chances to take place. The assertion can explain the recent disappearances of some suspected individuals of these crimes (article on my blog). The Katanga’s demand predicts that in end, responsible will be prosecuted; meanwhile, it increases threats risks on those warlords.

Therefore, though insignificant the step made by the ICC as compared to crimes committed in DRC, it deserves appreciation because it wouldn’t have occurred relying on country’s possibilities. Thus, the ICC, DRC partners and international community have to leverage for bending and persuading country leaders to establish justice for all crimes. The blogger believes that crimes never got “outdated”. As most of crimes in DRC went unpunished for decades, there is a need to rehabilitate victims of atrocities since 60s onwards.

Crimes committed in DRC have extra-territorial origins. Thus, Congolese have to be supported to establish the truth through independent and neutral investigations to determine responsibilities and complicities; and then bring them to justice. At the same time, crimes are to be prevented through learning on the ways they got committed; i.e, Congolese society needs to understand why and how this has happened beyond political interferences and interests. It sounds also that the Katanga’s demand to indict the real criminals would ultimately be a fair solution. It has to be underscored.

For the sake of sustaining justice, DRC needs a support to put in place the inexistent judicial system. A support must stress on victims rehabilitation and considering their future as mostly are now disabled people. It would make sense to try suspect criminals regardless of their positions; but sounding imperative to create a fund for assisting victims as their fate is uncertain. Undertaking the whole process within a reconciliatory approach would assure its sustainability. It is widely agreed that undertaking a comprehensive and holistic approach in dealing with different aspects of the DRC crises would help to in stabilizing the country. There is no need to isolate justice issues, without taking into account improving ordinary citizens socio-economic conditions, establish the appropriate political system, tackling corruption, embezzlements….


Ntanyoma R. Delphin

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Delphino12

Blog: www.easterncongotribune.com

About admin 430 Articles
PhD & Visiting researcher @POLISatLeeds. Interest: Microeconomic Analysis of Violent Conflict, Genocide Studies and violence targeting minority groups. Congolese, blogger advocating for Equitable Redistribution of Ressources & national wealth as well as & #Justice4All #DRC. On top of that, I'm proud of being a "villageois"


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